With a Whimper, not a Bang

June 10, 1994

Annapolis -- Maryland's state capital, home to the school that produces this nation's naval and marine officers, a city whose cobblestone alleys and briny working-dock breezes conjure up an America of yore -- yes, that same Annapolis will not be holding Independence Day fireworks.

How could Mayor Al Hopkins' government have dropped the ball on this? How can the nickel-maned mayor wax sentimental about the way things used to be, about the close-knit Annapolis he remembers from his youth frolicking on oyster-shell mounds by the City Dock, and then not work to arrange one of the few events that has stood the test of time in a fast-changing world? People, families and children still love to sit on a July summer's eve and oooh and ahhh as pyro-magicians spill color across a darkened sky. And there are few settings more stirring to watch this enduring custom than along the seawall of the U.S. Naval Academy.

The mayor's office says the city couldn't afford the police overtime costs. It put out some feelers, some businesses and citizens contributed, but not enough to hold the show. Even if a check for the total arrived today, they said, it's too late.

The absence of fireworks in the Anne Arundel County seat is due to a lack of moxie, not a lack of money. At least a dozen places in Maryland will hold fireworks this year, as always, from Baltimore's Inner Harbor to the Carroll County Farm Museum to Bel Air High School and beyond.

County goverment deserves a knock for this, too. The county discontinued its own show in Pasadena's Downs Park last year for budget reasons. With that event gone, the county should have worked to ensure that Annapolis' show happened.

City and county officials made it seem like this Independence Day stuff is too much bother. Sure, rooting through the attic to find the flag to display on Memorial Day can be a hassle. Carving pumpkins at Halloween is a mess. That big turkey dinner at Thanksgiving -- what a pain. But these secular holidays, not to mention the traditions of our religious ones, are what makes America America. As faith in so many institutions has fizzled like Roman candles in a night sky, these communal ceremonies of the calendar year sometimes seem like all we've got left. In Annapolis this July, we won't even have that.

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